Lots of bark and plenty of bite

 
Ryan Borroff
YOU may not have heard of Amédée Gordini but his name is synonymous with sporty Renault cars from the 1960s onwards – he had the magical ability of being able to squeeze race car-like performance out of regular petrol engines. A Le Mans-winning racer, Gordini’s master tuning helped Renault develop classic hot hatches, including the Renault 5 Alpine.

Now Renault has relaunched the Gordini brand name, and this time the French car maker is targeting female drivers with a range of hot hatches developed by Renault’s Renaultsport division, all carrying the Gordini name and all boasting pretty impressive performance.

The Twingo Gordini 133 is the smallest and possibly the best of these. It feels like some kind of city car alchemy has been performed in order to be able to spirit so much fun and performance out of it. Powered by a 1.6 litre VVT petrol engine producing 133hp, the Twingo Gordini has benefited from some substantial tweaking. The chassis is wider at the front and rear than the regular Twingo and stiffened suspension means you get a much firmer ride and better handling. Pootling around the north circular on a busy Friday afternoon, the car proves lively enough, but it is under hard acceleration above 4,500rpm on Berkshire’s winding country roads that the car really shines. It’s a proper little belter. The resulting drive is surprisingly spirited, helped a great deal by an engine note that confirms the car has a bark to back up its bite. Steering feels good, although a smaller steering wheel would have improved the experience for me. Road noise though, thanks to its low profile tyres, is significant. But then that really is part of the experience of driving such a car. It enhances the car’s raw feel, even if it’s a little tiring after a while.

With its electrifying metallic blue finish and white racing stripes, it’s obviously a racer, but not one that you’d avoid for fear that people would expect you to terrorise seaside promenaders for kicks at the weekend. It’s also got matching 17-inch Gordini alloys, wider front and rear wings and a rear spoiler, which hints at this perky little car’s oomph. Inside is a festival of Gordini Malta Blue colour and badges, including blue and dark grey leather sports seats, matching blue leather door trims, a leather-trimmed steering wheel – also with twin white racing stripes – and a rev counter slapped straight on top of the steering column; even a Gordini gearknob. So it is impossible to forget you’re driving a Gordini Twingo. In truth, the car looks good and feels well put together. It’s not stripped-out like some of Renaultsport’s other cars and actually feels rather luxurious.

It might be petite but designers have been clever with the interior, maximising space more shrewdly than in an Ikea wardrobe system, particularly in the back. There are pockets big enough to host any phones or music players as well as your guilty “grab bag” of choice when you make a service station pit-stop. (This will be pretty infrequently thanks to the car’s impressive fuel economy). But here the most exciting thing is the two rear seats, which slide individually. You can push either seat back to ensure extra leg room too, depending on how much stuff you have in the boot. It was certainly plenty big enough for the three of us and all our weekend paraphernalia, which is no mean feat in a car this small given my wife’s habit of packing at least three pairs of shoes for each day, “just in case”.

It’s a special little car, even more so since there are only 200, individually-numbered Twingo Gordinis bound for the UK. So you’d better be Gordini quick if you want one.

THE FACTS:
RENAULT TWINGO GORDINI 133

PRICE: £14,600
0-60MPH: 8.7secs
TOP SPEED: 125mph
CO2 G/KM: 159g/km
MPG COMBINED: 42.2mpg

THE VERDICT:

DESIGN
PERFORMANCE
PRACTICALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY